Thursday, September 30, 2010

When your child is a bit racist...

I do not live in a terribly ethnically diverse area.

Essentially, the demographic is white, middle class 2.4 (actually, more like 3+ children, we are in one of those areas where 3 children is the new 2.4) children. And tons of Japanese students who go to the local language school.

My daughters school has a good mix of nationalities. Iraqi, Jordanian, German, Acadian, and many, many Chinese students etc. But I struggle to think if I have seen any black children at the school.

Nope, still struggling.

I took my daughter to her first cheerleading class yesterday. (hmm...) The class was in, what friend's black nanny (who I often hang out with at the park) described as, a 'ghetto' area. I lived in one of the roughest parts of London for 7 years, so didn't think too much of it. Surely even the worst parts of chirpy Canada-land can't compete with the depths of 'Sarf-Laaandan town'.

Yep, the area was a little intimidating. Scrawny-looking, heavily-tattooed men hung over balconies. Young men loitered in the park, holding up their half-mast jeans with one hand on their crotch. Every surface available was covered in graffiti tags. Swarms of young children, from about age 3 up, ran on the grassy square in the centre of the community centre, with no obvious parental supervision. An enormous part of me envied their freedom, it looked so much healthier than my friends and my helicopter-hover. Altogether, it looked like a cross between 'The Wire' and 'Sesame Street'.

My daughter then asked a question which no cringing middle-class liberal parent wants to hear: "Do you have to be a brown person to live here?"

I went into Guardian reading overdrive, giving what I hoped was a informative, culturally sensitive speech about how we are all the same, yet differences are to be celebrated...yadda yadda. My teeth started itching with how hideously politically correct I was. Trevor Philips would have held me up as a beacon of hope for integration.

Yet here I was, nervously clutching my purse and holding my child's hand a little tighter because we had arrived in a part of the city where folk were unlike me. I try and think, would I be as defensive if there were a bunch of young tattooed white dudes hanging out at a park looking intimidating, and I am relieved to say that I think I would be just as nervous.

My daughter loved the cheerleading lesson. She was the only white girl there. At the end I asked her how she liked the other little girls.
She said, "Mummy, I like brown people, even though I am not meant to call them that."

Nothing like a middle-class cringe to end the day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I want to go home. Only I don't know where home is...

We are not coming back to England. At least, not as of this morning when my husband found out he didn't get the job that would have seen us secure the rest of our lives.

Part of me is happy - the town we would have ended up in made me feel elderly even just looking at it.
Part of me is terrified - there have been so few jobs on offer anywhere that we are in limbo, just waiting and hoping for a job to come up anywhere.
Part of me is desperate - I miss my family in the UK and now we are thinking we may have to look further afield to New Zealand and Australia it has become a reality that we may never live in the same country again.

I feel homesick, but not sure for which home. I think it is the home in my mind where we are secure, my daughter is in a school for longer than a year and my husband is settled in a job, at last.
That home is not here, as this is temporary. It is not in England, they don't seem to want us.

Where is my home now? And if I don't know that, when will this longing end?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you remember the first time you ever saw...?

...a pierced tongue?
...a mobile phone?
...the Internet?
...a video player?
...a CD?
...a 'normal' person with a tattoo?

I remember all of those things, so that probably makes me officially very old even though age 40 is a way off yet.
The pierced tongue had to be around the time of 'Firestarter' by the Prodigy. So, what, around 1995-ish. I remember being really disgusted that spaghetti would get wrapped around it and potentially you could end up chatting to someone whilst flapping Linguine Carbonara at them.

The mobile phone must have been around the same time, or at least in common usage. Whilst I was university it was all about the landline and hoping someone would take pity and actually leave a message on a scrap of paper.

I definitely remember the internet. It was 1997 and I had just spent a year writing lovely long letters to my boyfriend in Australia. Someone took me to the computer room at work and showed me this newfangled thing called email. I managed to ignore it for another year. I have kept every letter my boyfriend/husband sent me. The same can't be true of our emails. Shame.

The video player we had was a Betamax, and I have felt the stigma ever since. I think we watched 'Lord of the Rings' the cartoon on it about 800000 times.

The first CD I saw had to be the same one that everyone else saw, the one being smeared with jam on Tomorrow's World. My sisters and I loved the rainbow iridescent surfaces.

Trying to remember when I stopped associating tattoos with ropey sailors. I think I was about 20 and they started to become de rigeur.

Would love to know when you remember seeing these things or whether they were always there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to write a novel. It's actually working!

We all have a book in us. Apparently.
At least, if Katie Price is able to 'write' several bonkbusters, surely I can as well? And you. And the dustman...

I read on Powder Room Graffiti an article called 'Give NanoWriMo a go'. Here is the link.

Essentially, you write 50,000 words in the month of November. You write quickly, with minimal editing. It works out at 1667 words a day. Pretty intimidating, no?

Actually, it has been surprisingly easy so far. I decided not to wait until November to try this out. I've had an idea for a ghostly, prison tale for older teenagers that has been brewing in my brain for some time. Splatting it out on the page and not editing is liberating. It doesn't matter if it isn't perfect, you can always edit later.
But the main point is, at least you have something to edit. All too often I start my writing, falter at part of the plot or dialogue, then stall. I've had fiction published before, very minor league stuff, but since the kids have come along I have less energy to do it.

If you are the kind of person, like I am, who works better under pressure and with goals, I think you will find this amazing. I've been using this blog to warm up my brain before starting. So in two minutes time, I will be churning down my 1667 words. It's getting to the exciting part where she is just about to pull back the plastic sheeting in the prison wing...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Different countries, different smut.

Americans, Canadians and Brits speak a different language when it comes to smut.

OK, so the standard words of fuck, shit and c*** (apologies!) are pretty much universal, but around the margins the edges are blurred.

This morning I was having a bit of a chuckle at the 'Up and at 'em Morning Glory Muffin' at my local cafe. Now, to me, it is a celebration of an early morning erection. To them, it was a peachy keen baked goods label.

Or me inviting my daughter the other day to 'stroke the cat'. Apparently in Canada, stroke is definitely a rude word and I should use the word 'pet'. Now, I can see how it could be rude, but I'm pretty sure unless you said 'stroke the pussy' in the UK what I said is not particularly laughable.

Having lived in the UK for so long, there are so many many words and phrases that just aren't recognised. I asked where my handbag was the other day, queue lots of Canadian laughter. I should have said purse or pocketbook.
I asked what my daughter 'got up to at school', also laughter. God knows why.
Even new words like 'minger', 'chavvy' and 'Sat-nav' are met with a blank face. I need to use the word 'heffa', 'ghetto' and 'GPS'.

It can get exhausting trying to translate in your brain even simple phrases. How on earth do people cope with having English as a second language?

Anyway, I'm off now to enjoy my morning glory muffin. Sounds damn rude, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are we all Daddy's Girls at heart?

I have always been a Mummy's Girl. My sister was Daddy's Girl.

That was, until their divorce and we (my mum, sister and I) moved a continent away. I remained mummy's girl but my sister flailed around, trying to find where her father figure had gone. She looked for it in boyfriends, male colleagues, anyone with a drop of testosterone. I thought I remained unaffected. I generally find Men and Men-Stuff unappealing. I am a girls girl.

But over the years, about once a year, I am confronted with the tiny nugget within me that will always be daddy's girl. That wish for a father's praise when you have done something well, that certainty that your father thinks that there was never a lovelier creature that walked the earth than you.

Studies show that girls with strong bonds to their fathers have higher self esteem. I can see that in my own daughter. My husband adores everything about her - apart from her table manners. I try and imagine what that must be like to be the sun to my fathers moon, but fail.

My dad has let me down again. My charming, hilarious, handsome father has yet again decided that it is more important to go golfing in warm climes than to take the relatively short trip to see us. For the first time in 30 years I am living on the same continent as him, but he would much rather spend time with his golfing buddies.

It's funny, I understand I have never been a large part of his life. I have told myself it doesn't matter that he didn't bother seeing his grandson for the first year of his life. That he never knew what school I went to as a child, that he always seemed faintly unimpressed by my achievements. It's that part of me, the Freudian child that doesn't understand why I am not even third on his list of important things.

Are we all at heart Daddy's Girls, looking for their approval, even if we pretend we are not?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What argument with your husband keeps rearing it's head?

My husband and I have had our weekly argument about me not wanting to leave Canada.

We are not used to arguing, he is mild and jovial, I am spikey but a coward. Arguments are rare things, except for this one. It pops up like an evil jack in the box on a weekly basis for the past couple of months. It goes like this:

"Have you honestly, honestly exhausted all possibilities that there might be a job for you in the whole of Canada." [Me]
"Yes, I have sent out seven emails and no one has replied. There are no jobs in my incredibly, ridiculously specialised line of work. A line of work that you now curse because we will probably end up in Wolverhampton because that is the only place with an opening suitable." [him]
"Seven emails and no follow up calls?!?!? FFS!!!! It's hardly pounding the pavements. Canada is a big frickin' place. You aren't trying. You know how much I want to stay here and how happy the kids are but you secretly want to get us back to Blighty and I can't do a damn thing about it."
"I love it here too, but I love it in Blighty. Even Wolverhampton."
"You are so passive-aggressive."
"And you don't understand how it all works over here applying for jobs!!!"

Much crying and stamping of feet from both, and we are back to the beginning.
I want to stay here so badly. I was brought up here and only came to England because of my parents divorce. He knows that, and yet tells me he hasn't the time to look into the work situation here properly as there is a job coming up in England that he wants to go for.

I am not saying I couldn't be happy in England. I have been before, I could be again. I would be near lots of family (although the same could be said for Canada) and I could work in my profession there. But this longing to stay in Canada is a visceral thing. I feel like I finally belong. My heart thrills at seeing the Maple Leaf flag. I understand this place and it understands me. I never realised how deep my roots were here, and to tear them up is going to tear a piece of my soul. The children seem to have blossomed here. They are freer to run around the streets, we catch frogs and caterpillars, they love their school, but they also miss England as well.

I don't know why I have written this post, except to insult the good folk of Wolverhampton. Perhaps I have written it because it is better to write this and scream at the keyboard rather than scream at my husband again.
The screaming is not working, but neither is persuasion and kind words. Perhaps sometimes you just have to accept that your life cannot be as complete as you would like it to be.

Does anyone else have cyclical arguments they get into with their partners that has no resolution?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A place where mothers are being treated as second class citizens

This is a national disgrace.
A scandal so underground that the government has, for decades, kept the public in the dark about the sheer magnitude of this inequality.

And it's happening in your home, right now...

Yes, I am talking about 'Protected Poo Time'.
The smallest room in the house has become a battleground of the sexes, and mothers are being treated as second class citizens when it comes to Number Twos.

Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Was your husband/partner in the loo this morning for more than 20 minutes whilst you frantically rallied the troops for the school run?
  • When was the last time you were allowed to poo in peace without tiny fingers clawing their way under the door and the word 'Mummmmeeee' being shrieked repeatedly?
  • Did your husband take his laptop in with him? If so, yuck.
  • Is your idea of luxury is having a poo without your husband occasionally shouting 'darling, have we run out of envelopes?'
If you have answered yes to any of the above, you are not alone. Write to your MP. Demand that men try and have a go at pooping with a tiny bit more rapidity when all your children are having a meltdown at once. Recommend funding for studies into how women can acheive equality with men in this fraught dispute.

Your voice counts, even if your bottom does not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

With hindsight, as a parent, I would have...fill in the blank for me please.

Have you ever tried to give advice to a pregnant friend or relative? It is like walking a tightrope with snarling sharks on one side and rabid wolves on the other. I try and remember whether I ever listened to advice from parent friends. I regret to say that I don't think I did. It was NOT NEEDED. I had read the books, used my instincts and I KNEW BEST.

I didn't know best. I bought a frickin' awful pram, terrible car seat and could have done with listening to my mother-in-law about routine and discipline. You see, I have those children.
I always thought I would have obedient, pliable children who would sit and converse with adults in cafes in a charming way, who would use please and thank you and basically do as they were told but still be spunky and plucky. Hmm...

My sister is pregnant and any cautious pieces of advice are met with a polite stonewalling. I feel like shaking her by the lapels and screaming "I've been through the fire, damn it. It's a war out there with children and you need to know your enemy. I'm like a veteran of that war, hear me out!!!" Instead, I just chuckle and think 'Just you wait. Heh, heh, heh.'

Here are my top 5 things I wish I had known as a newbie parent.

  1. If you are even contemplating having more than one child, immediately buy a Phil & Ted's or similar. Otherwise you end up with just having to buy another pram after no.2 arrives. And a McClaren. Most of my friends and I have fine, expensive collections of prams. The worst thing that happens is that you can shove extra groceries or a friends toddler in the seating area of a stacked pram.
  2. Don't get too wedded to your birthing plan. The goddess of birth has a hilarious way of farting in your face if you assume all will proceed as planned. Whale music, schmale music.
  3. If someone offers to babysit - take up the offer! Short of the wicked witch from Hansel & Gretel babysitting I wish I had hurled my babies at more bystanders. An exhausted parent is not a joy to behold.
  4. Sometimes you should just give in. I did not want to co-sleep with my babies. My son wanted to sleep with his tiny face pressed against mine. We always started out with good intentions but ended up doing the dance of the seven beds where we would ricochet randomly into various bedrooms at night in search of sleep. I wish I had just given in at the beginning.
  5. Don't buy a 'diaper genie' (nappy bin). The room will just end up smelling of stale poo.
What are your top 5 hindsights?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Throw out 10 toys. Right now. You know you want to.

We have so much crap in our lives, don't we?

There was that chap who once said:
"Never have anything in your home that isn't useful or beautiful."
They forgot the second part of that statement which was:
"Except my children would kill me if I threw out their too small Thomas the Tank Engine Slippers, those broken Despicable Me Happy Meal toys and that 'That's not my Sweeties, That's my Mummy's Prozac' hardcover books. So we keep all that shit lying about the place."

We moved here in January from England with 7 suitcases of necessities. I can tell you, it has taken the gestation period of a baby for the crap to have spawned. I swear my daughter's Barbies have been humping away at night and creating more Barbies. Where the hell have they all come from?

I dare you all to go upstairs, pick up ten toys that your kids haven't played with since Jedward made their debut, and toss them away. THEY WON'T NOTICE. And if they do, just put on that blank face that means, well mummy doesn't know what you are yammering on about.
I just did that, and it was cathartic. Now for a well deserved gin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Friends - When is it 'safe' to have an argument. Part 2.

So my daughter comes home from school last night and delightedly tells me:

"Mummy, *** says that his mummy has decided she will be friends with you again."

If you read my post from a few weeks ago (just scroll down a bit) you will see that I had a bit of a ruction with two friends because their lovely but boyish boys were making my daughters life a little bit uncomfortable when we went away together. I snapped, I apologised, I forgot about it. One of the mums and I have a bit of a laugh about it sometimes, and have since been away together, with great success.

It would seem not so with Mum no.2. We have gone from contact each other several times a week to me occasionally calling, and being either ignored or a flimsy excuse given for avoiding me. I have seen her a couple of times, and I hoped I had been forgiven. I don't want to beg to have her as a friend, but it all feels so teenage girl 'she said, then I said'-ish. I could tell I was still in the dog house, and this was proof from a child's mouth. She is a really great lady, she makes me laugh, but I guess I pushed her too far in my irritation with her son.

It's awful to think that I am able to make a close friend and lose a close friend within 9 months. It makes you question how likeable you are. We all think ourselves as being flawed, but never suppose it would stop people from not wanting to know us. I am a gregarious person, I love my solitude but also love to have a great old yak with friends.

It also makes me wonder what she is saying to other people: 'don't go near 1950s Housewife, she's a right psycho'. I guess the only thing to do now is smile at her outside the school and move on and make other friends. Only this time I will keep my mouth firmly shut about criticising their child in any way. If there is ever a problem again, I will just walk away with my daughter.